Thursday, October 21, 2021

“Les jeunes filles de Paris”

 The reefer had gotten smoked down to its last quarter of an inch, tinged red with Araminta’s lipstick.

“Go ahead,” she said. “Finish it off.”

“Well, that might prove to be rather difficult, actually,” said Gerry, “as its size has become so diminished.”

“You talk funny, Mr. Goldsmith.”

“Yes, I suppose I do. I think that’s because I think funny.”

“Yes, precisely, you think funny, ergo, you talk funny.”

Araminta proceeded to take the tiny butt of reefer from Gerry’s awkward fingers and then to stick it between the prongs of a bobby pin she had removed from her hair.

“Here’s how you do it,” she said. “Give me another light.”

Using the bobby pin as a holder, she held the stub of muggles between her red lips, and Gerry obediently struck a match and put the flame to the stub.

“Ingenious,” he said.

She said nothing, holding her breath, and then, after what seemed like several minutes, she exhaled a cloud of smoke through those red lips.

She held the bobby-pinned stub out to Gerry.

“Your turn, old chap.”

Gerry imitated Araminta’s procedure, Araminta providing the light.

“Now I think we’ve finally gotten all we’re going to get out of that little bugger,” said Araminta.

Gerry sat there holding the bobby pin and its smoldering cinder of marijuana and paper, searching the caverns of his brain for a response, and in less than a minute he came up with, “Yes, I suppose we have.”

“You can put it into the ashtray now, Mr. Goldsmith.”

“Ah, yes, of course,” said Gerry.

There on the coffee table was the ashtray in question, filled with ashes and cigarette butts. The ashtray was made of beveled glass, and in gold print on its upper edge was the legend


“Go ahead, put the bobby pin down, Mr. Goldsmith,” said a voice that was familiar to Gerry.

“What?” he said, but to whom?

“Here, give it to me,” said the voice. Was it his mother’s?

“What?” said a voice Gerry recognized as his own, or very much like his own.

“Oh, dear,” said Araminta, and she took the bobby pin and its blackened nubbin of reefer from Gerry’s fingers and dropped it into the ashtray. “You, sir, are high as a kite!”

“So this,” said Gerry, after another echoing pause, whether of a second of or several minutes it was hard to say, “is what it’s like.”

“Yes,” said Araminta. “Isn’t it wonderful?”

Outside the windows of Araminta’s flat the afternoon rain fell and pattered gently, and automotive vehicles made whooshing noises in the street below.

“Miss Sauvage,” said Gerry, the words suddenly pouring from his brain into his mouth and out of it, “may I speak freely?”

“Oh, please do, Mr. Goldsmith,” said Araminta. She was sitting crosslegged on the divan, but her grey skirt hid most if hardly not all of her black-stockinged legs.  

“I think this is the most splendid time I’ve had in my entire life,” said Gerry.

“Me too,” she said.

There was a run in one of Araminta’s stockings at the side of the knee, and Gerry did his best not to stare at it.

“I shouldn’t want you to take what I say the wrong way,” were the words that tumbled out of his mouth at this point.

“Oh, I shan’t, I assure you, Mr. Goldsmith,” said Araminta.

“I realize all too well that I am middle-aged, my best days behind me, and, to be quite honest, even my best days were nothing to write home about.”

“Oh, I find that hard to believe, Mr. Goldsmith. Didn’t you spend a couple of years in Paris in your bounding youth?”

“Well, I don’t know how bounding it was.”

“But Paris in the twenties! It must have been marvelous. Tell me, did you know Gertrude Stein?”

“Well, I think I saw her a few times, you know, doing her shopping and whatnot.”

“How merveilleux! What did she buy?”

“Oh, you know, the usual: bread, wine.”

“Wine and bread!” said Araminta. “And cheese, I should imagine.”

“Yes, most likely there was cheese involved,” said Gerry.

“Oh, how les jeunes filles must have loved you, Mr. Goldsmith!”

“Oh, no,” said Gerry.

“Oh, but I’m sure they did. Dites-moi, did you break many hearts?”

“Oh, far from it. You see, I was a very shy young fellow.”

“Oh, nonsense, you’re being modest!”

“I’m afraid not, Miss Sauvage.”

“Dash it all, call me Araminta.”

“Of course. Araminta.”

“And may I call you by your given name?”

“I should be most pleased.”


“Yes,” said Gerry.

“Short for Gerald?”

“Gerard actually.”

“I shall call you Gerard.”

“No one has ever called me Gerard in my entire life.”

“I’m calling you Gerard.”

“So be it.”

“Should we go out now?”


“Let’s go at once. All of life is waiting out there.”

A mere twenty-five minutes later they successfully emerged from the building. It was still raining, and the afternoon was fading. The plan was to go around the corner to Bob’s Bowery Bar, but they absent-mindedly turned the wrong way, walking together under Gerry’s old black umbrella, and they had gone as far as MacDougal Street before realizing their error.

{Please go here to read the “adult comix” version in A Flophouse Is Not a Home, profusely illustrated by the illustrious rhoda penmarq…}

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